I am sitting at Mel’s diner in foggy San Francisco doing paperwork over breakfast. In my bag, I have three articles that I have been pondering this week. Two are pending publication, work by faculty colleagues across the country. One is Fidelindo Lim’s original work. He surveyed nurse educators and the results showed how little education about LGBT issues is incorporated into the nursing curriculum. Nursing educators report knowing little about LGBT healthcare, and very few even read about these issues. Another article is by my San Francisco State colleague, Rebecca Carabez. She had undergraduate students interview practicing nurses and her findings show an astounding lack of education about LGBT issues in nursing school or continuing education even in the San Francisco Bay Area. One article is already published, by Patti Zuzelo (2014) and is a lovely piece of LGBT advocacy. She says,
“it may be that nurses…do not know or consider the unique and shared health care needs of LBT women in part because of curricular inattentiveness toward sexually marginalized groups that is experienced during formative years of professional education”
In considering these three articles as a whole, I was caught in the middle of conflicting emotions. I was grateful that my colleagues are doing this work and raising awareness of LGBT issues in nursing, and appreciative of the well-written, reasoned articles that plead for attention; but also furious that we still need to do this. Our polite calls for attention from nursing education and from nursing professional organizations have largely fallen on deaf ears for more than 30 years. On the one hand, we have come a long way, and now fewer LGBT people experience the most devastating types of discrimination and violence, such as refusals of care and physical mistreatment by healthcare providers. The number of nurses who are overtly negative about LGBT people has been shrinking (although is still robust enough to poison the climate in many settings). Now, LGBT people face more subtle issues of heterosexism. What Zuzelo is referring to in the quote above: “curricular inattentiveness.” In the past 30 years we have been careful to blame the system: the discourses of society such as religion, the media, education, medical and healthcare systems, the law. But this defense is getting old. LGBT people are in the media every day, laws are changing right and left, societal attitudes are changing, religions are becoming welcoming and inclusive. Nursing no longer has an excuse for not addressing LGBT issues in all aspects of the discipline: education, continuing education, practice, research, and policy.
Thank you Drs. Zuzelo, Lim, and Carabez, and many others for writing these rational and measured pleas for attention, but I’m about done with it all. I’m pissed off at the “curricular inattentiveness” because there is no longer any excuse for it. LGBT nurses and their allies are beginning to organize and maybe having a nursing section of GLMA: Health professionals advancing LGBT equality, will make a difference. Perhaps together we will find a way to become a force to reckon with; a force that nursing leadership must pay attention to at long last. If you are furious, discouraged, or inspired to make a change, come to the LGBT Nursing Summit September 10 and let’s find a way together! I am tired of getting indigestion every time we hit another brick wall in the hallowed halls of nursing.
In the meantime, for those with cooler heads, read the fine work of my calmer, less dyspeptic colleagues and share their work with nursing coworkers who need this information, whether they know it or not. I will alert you when the two unpublished articles are out in print. You can find a link to the Zuzelo article on the home page of this website.